Excerpts from Siegfried Giedeon’s “Space, Time and Architecture”

According to Giedon, what was right with Haussmann was due to the big scale, big planning, and engineering of his work,  what was wrong was the basic unit of Haussmann’s city.

“with shops on the ground floor, a mezzanine floor, three main floors and two attic floors. The three main floors have the same plan. They are apartments intended for upper middle class  tenants. The three windowed bedroom for Monsieur and Madame takes up space at the corner. To its left is a living room, to the right the dining room. Further along to the right are the other bedrooms. There is a nursery which receives almost no light The kitchen and the servants room look onto a narrow light-well. These narrow light-wells are an evil characteristic of Continental dwelling houses of this period and of the years after it as well. The attic floors are the most densely over-crowded parts of the building. Here bed is placed next to bed, in the most confined space possible. For the accommodation of servants, night lodgers and the lower classes generally…. The uniform facade of this house of 1860 covers a living unit in which the most diversified functions of daily living swirl together. Business takes over the ground floor and often encroaches on the mezzanine, in workrooms connected with the various establishments. The three main floors are congested slums. in earlier times the association of production with dwelling quarters was quite natural, but… it is absurd in an age of industrial productionto permit residence, labor and traffic intermingle. 

The dislike of the Parisian apartment houses extends to the total urban context as well. The boulevard becomes

“the endless street… that stretches beyond the range of the eye. [While] the neutral facades and the general uniformity make Haussmann’s enormous work of rebuilding better than any other executed in or after the fifties of the nineteenth century…the most appalling disorder lies concealed…behind the uniform outer walls…The street dominates contemporary birds eye views of the city. The houses which do not front on it have plainly been allowed to spring up in a huddled confusion. Haussmann uses the uniform facade as a kind of wardrobe into which all disorder can be crammed.” 

Giedion, Siegfried. Space, Time and Architecture. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1941. 673-675.


The Arcade Project

The Arcade Project is a project written by the German critic Walter Benjamin between 1927 and 1940. It is a collection of writings on the city life in Paris in the 19th century.

The magic columns of these palaces
Show to the amateur on all sides,
In the objects their porticos display,
That industry is the rival of the arts.
-Nouveaux Tableaux de Paris (paris, 1828), vol. 1, p. 27



The Rebuilding of Paris Streets

Earlier transformations of the city consisted of adding to the already existing urban fabric. Napoleon III’s idea of restructuring Paris by cutting streets through it represented a major change in approach. Outlined in the diagram below (Fig. 1), Napoleon III proposed a new system of boulevards to run throughout the city. These new boulevards were crucial for two reasons: 1) A stage for elegant living, promenading, and socializing in shops and outdoor cafes/restaurants. 2) Connecting corridors between city landmarks (Fig. 2). In addition, these streets both connected the railways stations in the outer regions of the city to the key points in the center (government buildings, markets, hospitals, business & entertainment districts), and in turn linked the central organs of business and administration (fire department, riot police, ambulance, store deliveries) to the city’s various quarters. Specifically, the creation of Boulevard Saint-Germain completed what was to be an inner ring/circuit, connecting Place du la Concorde to the Bastille.

paris streeets 2

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

Saalman, Howard. “The Rebuilding of Paris.” In Haussmann: Paris Transformed, 14-15. 1st ed. New York: George Braziller, 1971.

Modern Accomodation in Paris

Today, many mansion blocks have gone under renovation and now serve as apartments, studios or boutique hotels.

Saint Germain Mansion

Saint Germain Mansion

Depending on the location, age, size and features to the apartment, housing rental ranges from €500 to €3200.

Boulevard Saint Germain has become a more prestigious residential area, and many students have diverted to other areas for housing.


Hôtel Particulier

Mansion Blocks around Paris have transformed into boutique hotels. Rates for these rooms range from €100 to €1000.


Cours du Commerce Saint André

One of the passages of Paris after Haussman, connecting Rue Saint-André des Arts and Boulevard Saint Germain.

Cours Commerce de Saint-André

DSC_1324-web-1024x639Along this passage is also the remainders of the walls of Philippe Auguste. These walls were built to protect the capital and was later replaced by boulevards that Haussman built. Remainders of these walls are now also integrated into other buildings.


Walls of Philippe Auguste on Porte St Germain


Street Revolutions – Paving Way For The Commune

Throughout the renovation, Haussmann understood all too well that controlling urban space also meant controlling social reproduction. The rebuilding of Paris led to a growing socio-spatial segregation. Gradually, this dual social opposition, still present today – between the centre and the suburbs on the one hand, and between the east and west of the Paris urban area on the other – appeared and increased. This airtight spatial segregation fostered a reproduction of social classes. Workers had barely enough resources to meet their immediate needs, let alone long-term needs (children, education). Women were grossly exploited and underpaid. Segregation marginalized the poor and protected the bourgeoisie* from the real/imagined dangers of the criminal classes. At the same time, variations in land prices led to a segregation of economic functions and a concentration of shops, services and finance houses in the affluent areas of central Paris, with large industrial companies relegated to the periphery. The spatial reconstruction of Paris was also reflected in a growing separation between home and workplace, prefiguring the current division of the two. The city centre, with its department stores, monuments and boulevards became a showcase of capitalism and goods for the benefit of only a few (a phenomenon referred to by Baudelaire in “The Eyes of the Poor”, in Paris Spleen). All these elements sowed the seeds for the uprising of the Communards, the dramatic failure of which (several tens of thousands of deaths on the barricades and in summary executions) in June 1871 was almost certainly a result of the premature nature of this revolution and of a workers’ organization that was still too fragile to combat the reactionary forces.

*Note: Bourgeoisie – the middle class, typically with reference to its perceived materialistic values or conventional attitudes.

– Huriot, Jean-Marie, and Oliver Waine. “Haussmann: From Modernity to Revolution.” – Metropolitics. May 15, 2013. Accessed December 6, 2014. http://www.metropolitiques.eu/Haussmann-from-modernity-to.html.

Parisian Housing of the 19th Century

A Parisian apartment was found untouched for 70 years in the 9th arrondissement, housing furniture and paintings of the 19th century.



Watson, Leon. “Inside the Paris Apartment Untouched for 70 Years: Treasure Trove Finally Revealed after Owner Locked up and Fled at Outbreak of WWII.” Mail Online. May 13, 2013. Accessed December 6, 2014. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2323297/Inside-Paris-apartment-untouched-70-years-Treasure-trove-finally-revealed-owner-locked-fled-outbreak-WWII.html.